Smart Audio and Video Lectures to Watch Today

financial crisisUnderstanding the Current Financial Disaster. Still puzzled by how our economy stumbled so suddenly and so disastrously? This American Life produced two programs this year that explain in a lively, nuanced, yet crystal clear fashion how the subprime mortgage crisis set the economy into a tailspin and how a few, obscure, unregulated securities products helped spread that disaster to the rest of the economy. If you never thought the words "fascinating storytelling" and "credit default swap" could ever be used in connection with one another, think again, and check out these two enlightening programs: "The Global Pool of Money" (5/9/08) and "Another Frightening Show about the Economy" (10/3/08).

al goreGetting Serious About Ending Global Warming. Al Gore has been sounding the alarm about global warming for years now —and maybe it's finally working. In this July 17th speech, he calls for America to wean itself from carbon-based energy over the next ten years. Sounds impossible? It's not. (See the next entry and Amory Lovin's speech below for clues about how it might get done.) You'll want to skip forward to the 2:22 minute mark to avoid all the boring political thank-yous--after that, it's gripping. Who ever thought that word would be applied to Al Gore?.

How We Free Today's Slaves. This is the 200th anniversary of the year that the importation of slaves was outlawed in the United States and the 201st anniversary of the year slavery was outlawed in Great Britain. But it's another anniversary that intrigues author Kevin Bales, author of How We Free Today's Slaves. In 1787, twelve people in Britain got together around a table and began to strategize about how they were going to end slavery. At the time, in terms of its economic might, the slave trade was equivalent of the modern global automotive industry. Think of the sheer chutzpa involved in that decision, and then think of the political tasks awaiting us today—reforming our corporatocracy, ending global warming, or ending the new international slave trade. It can be done. Inspiring.

The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil. Psychologist Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University looks at the Abu Ghraib incident in light of what is known about how humans come--through conditioning or circumstance--to commit heinous acts that they themselves would normally find reprehensible. Zimbardo was the creator of the famous Stanford Prison Experiment of the 1960s, where experimental subjects assigned the role of "guards" tortured fellow experimental subjects assigned the role of "prisoners" in ways that strangely foreshadow to events in Iraq. Lecture at MIT via the WGBH Forum Network.

Amory Lovins, Winning the Oil Endgame. Lecture at MIT. Feeling trapped in the oil economy? Physicist and eco-engineer Amory Lovins looks at a dozen new technologies that will allow America to end its use of oil by 2040. This highly technical lecture was inspiring even to this non-scientist. It will make you feel better about the future of the world.

Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World.Entertaining brain food, even you disagree with him. Walter Russell Mead, foreign policy expert of the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that the synergy of individualistic religion and capitalism propelled Britain and the U.S. to global dominance, and as a result, the two nations were able to create the liberal, democratic system whose economic and social influence continues to grow around the world. Wide-ranging and intellectually stimulating, if self-congratulatory.

Francis Fukiyama, American Policy After Iraq: A Post-Bush Agenda. Reformed neo-con Fukiyama of The End of History fame looks at the idealistic roots of neo-con foreign policy, its failures in the real world, and its misunderstanding of the Islamist terrorist challenge. Audio from the Commonwealth Club. Lecture given May 10, 2006.

Charles Murray, Replacing the Welfare State.(Audio only) OK, I don't care how many knock-down drag-outs you had about Murray's last book, "The Bell Curve," you should still give a listen to this fascinating, break-outta-the-box exercise in social theory--libertarian style. His plan: Give every adult in America $10,000 a year. The result--a middle class revolution that would lift millions out of poverty and restore meaning to modern life. (Look for the April 18th lecture at the Commonwealth Club site.)

pinterHarold Pinter's Nobel Lecture. Playwright Harold Pinter goes down swinging in this fascinating lecture that is half about playwriting, half about politics--mostly a bare-knuckled attack on U.S. foreign policy.

The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma. Marc Kirschner, chair, systems biology, Harvard. Proponents of the notion of intelligent design argue that Darwin cannot account for the complexity of the human brain or the fly's eye. Two biologists, Harvard's Marc Kirschner and Berkeley's John Gerhart, use current research in genetics and evolutionary biology to propose a scientific explanation of nature's variety called "facilitated variation."

After the Victorians. Scholar A.N. Wilson on the decline of the British Empire in the 21st century as seen through the deaths of four individuals.


flagAfter Iraq: What's Ahead for America. James Fallows, national correspondent, Atlantic Monthly. Lecture given at Princeton. Great summary of his Atlantic series on Iraq. (Lecture from Sept. 2005)

Updated 8/09

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